Cheese, Seafood and Meat Appetizers to Whet Your Palate for 2010

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The year is almost over, and it's time to settle on the menu for New Year's gatherings. I love using New Year's Eve as an opportunity to serve rich, elegant food that celebrates the year past and the year to come. I also love serving small bites rather than a big meal: it provides flexibility so guests can arrive in their own time, and frees me up to enjoy the party rather than preparing dinner.
In honor of that, I offer up 12 suggestions for appetizers that would work well at a New Year's party. They fall in three categories: cheese, seafood and meat.

Cheese

We'll start with a simple, elegant crowd-pleaser. Baked Brie is always a party hit, and Elise of Simply Recipes serves up a sweet-yet-savory, creamy option that is sure to make your New Year's guests happy.

If you're up for Brie but want a slightly different option, Lisa of My Own Sweet Thyme provides some taste-tested Brie appetizer ideas that also show off the creamy cheese to its best advantage.

Fondue is always a fun option, but not everyone has a fondue set. Luckily, this elegant appetizer is quite possible to pull off without special equipment. Stephanie of A Year of Slow Cooking puts a small slow cooker to use for her Fancy Cheese Fondue Little Dipper recipe.

If you're a fan of Crab Rangoon but want a vegetarian alternative, the Scallion Cream Cheese Bites from Des of Life's Ambrosia might just be what you're looking for. "They are quick, they are easy, they are bite size and not to mention they look pretty good on your table," Des wrote.

Seafood

Jen of Use Real Butter recommends her Crawfish Phyllo Turnovers as an elegant appetizer option. She made them for Christmas Day, but they would go well on a New Year's holiday table, as well.

My Mom's from Baltimore, so I grew up on blue crab, and love all crabby dishes I can get my hands on. Alanna of Kitchen Parade features some Mini Crab Bites that are simple, healthy, quick to make, and feature crab as the real star of the show. She's been taking them to New Year's celebrations since 1996, and I think it's time anyone who loves crab start incorporating them in their New Year's menu.

From French Cooking for Dummies comes an idea for Coconut Ceviche Appetizer Spoons. This fresh, tropical preparation also features a fun serving method.

Bea of La Tartine Gourmande offers up her Duo of Vegetable Mousses and its Tuna Tartar, an appetizer best served in small glasses so guests can see the beautiful layers.

Meat

A lovely way to work ahead is to make a mousse or pâté to spread on crackers or crostini. Julie of A Mingling of Tastes provides two wintry and celebratory options: Apple-Thyme Chicken Liver Mousse and Pistachio-Chicken Liver PâtéJulie offers this advice to those who haven't eaten or served a chicken liver dish before: "If you’re not so sure about chicken livers, consider this: they are so cheap and easy to prepare that you won’t be taking a big risk if you don’t like them. If you’re worried about squeamish friends and family, just call these dishes 'country pâtés' and hope they are too embarrassed to ask you to explain exactly what’s in it. After the first bite, they won’t care anymore."

If I ever thought I wanted to be a vegetarian, meatballs would abuse me of that notion. This recipe for Teriyaki Meatballs from Karly of Buns in My Oven sounds like a delicious twist on the kinds I usually make.

Puff pastry is an incredibly easy way to dress up an appetizer. Though I'll admit I've never tried to make my own puff pastry at home, I've found that buying frozen sheets of it works just fine, particularly for dishes like the Sausage in Puff Pastry suggested by Rita of Pink Bites. If you made the Baked Brie mentioned above, you might even have leftover puff pastry from that recipe that could be the perfect fit for this appetizer option.

Finally, Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple offer up Vietnamese beef wrapped in wild betal leaves, or Bò Lá Lốt, which is one of the courses in the traditional Vietnamese Seven Courses of Beef. "These spicy, peppery Việt herb leaves add a nice, punch of flavor to these awesome, garlicky beef appetizers," Todd and Diane wrote. "They can be eaten alone, straight off the skewers or wrapped in fresh springrolls."

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also documenting her year in photos at 365 in 2009.

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